Endpoint Protection

A Brief Look at Zeus/Zbot 2.0 

05-03-2010 04:35 PM

Zeus/Zbot is one of the most widely known Internet threats today. It’s been around since 2007 and has evolved over time, and is still in a constant state of being developed into a stronger, more prolific Trojan.
A few weeks ago we came across a variant of Zbot representing the fact that it has undergone code refactoring and some functional changes in the Trojan's infection technique and behavior. The variant is now known as version 2.0 (named after the Trojan builder kit version).
In overview, for the common PC user, new changes mean that:

  • Your PC could have multiple infections of Zbot, thereby sending your personal information to multiple Zbot controllers.
  • Zbot is aiming for information from different browsers, including Firefox.
  • Zbot is expanding its ability to run in newer operating systems such as Windows 7.
  • Zbot is in constant development, so it might be around for few more years to come.
  • Removing Zbot manually isn't going to be straightforward. The same applies for other threats that claim to have a 'Kill Zeus' module.
Let’s briefly look at some of the changes in 2.0. For the uninitiated, please read our previously published paper on Zeus entitled “Zeus: King of the Bots.”
On your “command,” Master
  • The built-in commands supported by the Trojan have changed; below is the comparison table:
Version 2.0 command Functionality Version 1.x command
user_flashplayer_get Gets the Flash player data from a user’s system --
user_ftpclients_get Steals passwords from FlashFXP, total_commander, ws_ftp, fileZilla, FAR2, winscp, ftp_commander, coreFTP, and smartftp Resetgrab
user_homepage_set Set the browser’s home page to desired URL Sethomepage
user_url_unblock Restore access to an attacker-desired URL Unblock_url
user_url_block Disable access to an attacker-desired URL Block_url
user_certs_remove Removes certificate --
user_certs_get Steal digital certificates Getcerts
user_cookies_remove Delete browser cookies Delmff (partly)
user_cookies_get Upload cookies Getmff (partly)
user_execute Download and execute a file Consolidation of 'Rexec', 'Lexec' & 'Lexeci'
user_logoff Log off user --
bot_bc_remove Removes a back door connection Bc_del
bot_bc_add Initiate back door by back-connecting to a server and allow arbitrary command execution via the command shell Bc_add
bot_update Download and update bot config (sets in registry as well), download and execute new bot installer Consolidation of 'Upcfg'  & 'Rename_bot'
bot_uninstall Remove bot altogether --
os_reboot Reboot the computers Reboot
os_shutdown Shut down the computer Shutdown
user_destroy (not implemented) possibly to delete all user files Kos
fs_search_remove (not implemented) possibly to remove file mask for local search Delsf
fs_search_add (not implemented) possibly to add a file mask for a local search Addsf
fs_path_get (not implemented) possibly to upload a file or folder Getfile
bot_httpinject_disable (not implemented) possibly to disable http inject Block_fake
bot_httpinject_enable (not implemented) possibly to enable http inject Unlock_url
Built-in commands in 2.0 compared to 1.x
  • Some of the commands in 2.0 aren’t implemented yet, which only leads us to one conclusion: it is under continuous development.
Sneak in

When executed, initial thread injection into other processes is as follows:
  • The processes “explorer.exe”, “taskeng.exe”, and “taskhost.exe” are injected with the below four threads:
    1. A thread to open a back door channel.
    2. A thread to download threat-related data.
    3. A thread to inject into other running processes.
    4. A thread to perform bot instructions from config stored in the registry.
  • A single thread is injected into the processes “rdpclip.exe”, “ctfmon.exe”, and “wscntfy.exe” (the single thread’s job is to inject into every other process).

The “Hijack”
  • The APIs shown in the table below are hijacked from the injected process memory. We can see that version 2.0 is now able to hook NSPR APIs (used by Mozilla Firefox) to read and write to data that it receives and sends:

Zbot 2.0 hooked APIs
Zbot 1.x hooked APIs
  • HttpSendRequestW
  • HttpSendRequestA
  • HttpSendRequestExW
  • HttpSendRequestExA
  • InternetReadFile
  • InternetReadFileExA
  • InternetQueryDataAvailable
  • InternetCloseHandle
  • HttpQueryInfoA
  • closesocket
  • send
  • WSASend
  • TranslateMessage
  • GetClipboardData
  • PR_OpenTCPSocket
  • PR_Close
  • PR_Read
  • PR_Write
  • PFXImportCertStore
  • LdrLoadDll
  • NtCreateThread
  • GetFileAttributesEx


  • HttpSendRequestW
  • HttpSendRequestA
  • HttpSendRequestExW
  • HttpSendRequestExA
  • InternetReadFile
  • InternetReadFileExW
  • InternetReadFileExA
  • InternetQueryDataAvailable
  • InternetCloseHandle

WS2_32.DLL and WSOCK32.DLL

  • send
  • sendto
  • closesocket
  • WSASend
  • WSASendTo


  • GetMessageW
  • GetMessageA
  • PeekMessageW
  • PeekMessageA
  • GetClipboardData

Here is an image showing hooked APIs in process memory:

“Drop” zone
  • Zbot version 2.0 drops another smaller .exe of equivalent functionality but packed by a different executable packer into %User Profile%\Application Data\[randomfolder]\[random name].exe (where [random name], [random folder] is generated based on Mersenne's pseudo-random number generator).

    For comparison’s sake, version 1.x copied itself to a fixed path with a constant filename under “%System%” and added some random content in its appended data every time, making its file hash different.
  • Version 2.0 adds the following registry key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run\"{[VOL_GUID]}" = "%User Profile%\Application Data\[random folder]\[random name].exe"
(Where [VOL_GUID] is the volume GUID of WINDOWS mount point. And [random name], [random folder] is generated based on Mersenne's Pseudo random number generator.)

This is compared to version 1.x, which added HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\"Userinit" = "%System%\userinit.exe, %System%\<threatfilename>.exe"
“Exclusive” rights
  • Mutex and PIPE names used for the exclusion and inter-thread communications in 2.0 now use GUID (instead of fixed Mutex names, as in 1.x). This enables multiple instances of Zbot, created by different bot builders, to run alongside one another simultaneously.
“Phish” me not
  • Disables Internet Explorer’s phishing filter by setting the following keys:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\PhishingFilter\"Enabled"
= dword:0
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\InternetExplorer\PhishingFilter\"EnabledV8" = dword:0
“Passwords” are (not) safe

  • Version 2.0 steals passwords from the following FTP clients, which is similar to what was seen in version 1.x:
“FlashFXP”, “total_commander”, ”ws_ftp”, “fileZilla”, “FAR2”, “winscp”, “ftp_commander”, “coreFTP” & “smartftp”.
“Log” my move

  • It can also take screen shots and log keystrokes (by hooking API 'TranslateMessage')
All your “data” belongs to me
  • It adds the following extra headers to the http communication through hijacked API’s 'HttpSendRequestW', 'HttpSendRequestA', 'HttpSendRequestExW', and 'HttpSendRequestExA'.
"Accept-Encoding: identity\r\n"
  • All of the network data that is sent out through the APIs 'send' and 'WSASend' is uploaded to a pre-configured anonymous FTP site.
Keys are no longer “private”

  • Attempts to steal private keys from certificates by hooking API 'PFXImportCertStore', similar to version 1.x.
“Change” is inevitable
  • By hooking the ‘PR_Read’ and ‘PR_Write’ APIs of NSPR4.dll, it is able to modify and read data sent by Mozilla Firefox, whereas versions 1.x could not. This means it has the ability to inject code forms and code into banking websites browsed through by Mozilla Firefox.
For the sake of “argument”
  • Somewhat unusually, Zbot 2.0 also accepts command line arguments. It accepts "-f" and “-n” as parameters. “-f” is used to alter registry use and “-n” is to prevent dropper threats from being self-deleted. This was probably used during the testing phase of Zbot and accidentally included in this release.
A little per-“spec”-tive
  • The Zeus config file has undergone changes too. Additional layers of encryption were added to deter security analysts—below are a few screen shots of a decoded config file:

The screenshot above shows some search strings that are used by Zeus to collect user information from various popular sites.

The above screenshot of a config file shows Zeus’s malicious JavaScript code that will be injected into the web browser in order to steal some private questions and answers that the user has provided to a banking website.

The above screenshot shows script code that tricks users into giving away their bank PIN numbers. Such code injection into a Web browser can trick an everyday user into believing that their bank is legitimately requesting the information.

Symantec’s protection summary on Trojan.Zbot can be found at http://www.symantec.com/security_response/writeup.jsp?docid=2010-011016-3514-99. We at Symantec continuously monitor and track such Trojans and update generic detection signatures as soon as new variants are released. Please, as always, keep your antivirus and IDS/IPS products up to date to ensure the best possible protection against threats.

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